- the confederate of a gambler, pitchman, auctioneer, etc. who pretends to buy, bet, or bid so as to lure onlookers into participating
- a person who works energetically to sell or promote something
Origin of shillcontr. ; from shillaber ; from uncertain or unknown; perhaps
verbshilled, shill·ing, shills
- To act as a shill for (a deceitful enterprise).
- To lure (a person) into a swindle.
Origin of shillPerhaps short for shillaber, shill, of unknown origin.
(third-person singular simple present shills, present participle shilling, simple past and past participle shilled)
Unknown; attested as verb 1914, as noun 1916. Perhaps an abbreviation of shillaber, attested 1913. The word entered English via carny, originally denoting a carnival worker who pretends to be a member of the audience in an attempt to elicit interest in an attraction.
Speculatively cognate with German Schieber (“black marketeer, profiteer") via *shi-la-ber.
There are some suggestions that it originates in the surname Shilaber or Shillibeer, especially George Shillibeer, but proposed origins are dubious as the word is first attested in North America in the 20th century, while proposed models are 19th century British.